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60 Minutes television show investigates mechanical doping in cycling

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The American television newsmagazine 60 Minutes is expected to report about mechanical doping in pro cycling going back as far as 1998. 

Front Page Cycling reports that the programme will involve an investigation into Lance Armstrong and motorized doping. CBS News’ Bill Whitaker, a correspondent for the programme, interviewed Tyler Hamilton for the story.

In 2011 Tyler Hamilton did a two-part interview with 60 Minutes admitting to taking performance enhancing drugs and detailing Lance Armstrong’s drug doping.

The report also said that Whitaker traveled to Budapest, Hungary in June 2016 to interview Varjas and give demonstrations of the motor technology.

Concerns around mechanical doping first gained widespread traction in 2010 when some speculated that Fabian Cancellara rode a motorized bike in several of the Spring Classics. These allegations stemmed largely from an impressive acceleration away from Tom Boonen on the Kapelmuur in the Tour of Flanders and questionable hand movements which could have activated a hidden motor.

Other athletes whose bikes and performances raised questions include Ryder Hesjedal, whose rear wheel continued to spin sfter a crash in the 2014 Vuelta a España, and Alberto Contador, who made some oddly timed bike changes when riding on to win the 2015 Giro d’Italia.

Istvan Varjas, the engineer widely regarded as the technology’s inventor, hinted at mechanical doping in the professional peloton as early as 1998. In an October interview with Ger Gilroy on his Off The Ball radio show, Varjas said that he sold his invention to an unnamed party in 1998 and signed an exclusivity agreement for ten years. He later clarified to Le Monde: “I was not paid to make it, I was paid not to make it for others.”

60 Minutes is a well-respected investigative journalism show that has earned 20 Peabody Awards and 106 Emmy Awards, more than any other television programme.